In a novel that Kirkus praised as "a highly entertaining page-turner," Margi Preus (The Peace Bell, 2008) returns to Japan to tell the rousing story of 14-year-old Manjiro, the first Japanese person to set foot in America. When asked what inspired her to translate his adventure as a novel, Preus says, "All that salty adventure!" Inspired by reading Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian to her sons, Preus became fascinated by the differences between Japan and the New World. In 2009, she traveled to Japan. "It was great to meet all the bright, curious and independent-thinking people who live in Manjiro's village of Nakanohama," says Preus. "I caught the smell of the ocean, seaweed, fish and this sweet smoke, and I suddenly realized how it must have been for him to catch that first scent of home." The book is complemented by Manjiro's own drawings and other archival materials, as well as Jillian Tamaki's original drawings. "People are fascinated to learn that Manjiro was a real person," says Preus. "When readers see the drawings in the book that he himself made, it really reinforces the reality of his life. If readers are inspired by his life and his example of fostering peace through friendship, so much the better."

Kirkus found quite a few novels with great boy characters to include among our Best Children's Books of 2010. See them all here.

For a complete list of the historical novels that are among Kirkus' Best of 2010 for children, click here.

Pub info:

Heart of a Samurai

Margi Preus; illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Amulet/Abrams / August / 9780810989818 / $15.95 / ages 10-13